Paris: Bois du matin.*


My hotel, of course, isn't air conditioned. (Why would it? I don't even have a clock. I miss the United States.)I sleep with the French doors flung open to let in the fresh air, which usually means I'm rudely awakened at intervals by incoherent shouting or loud trucks on what I originally thought was a quiet, almost residential street. But right now, between the crashes from a garbage truck that's taken up residence down the street, I can hear someone practicing the cello. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.

So. this is what morning in Paris feels like. DSC02295Staying up until 2 a.m. — 3:30, at the latest (why can't I ever stay up that late when my social calendar demands it?!) — isn't terribly conducive to a bright-and-early wake-up. So I've been rolling out of bed around 10:30, making it to a brasserie just before breakfast service ends and then beginning my sightseeing around noon. I nearly died of exhaustion yesterday. Bound and determined to go to Versailles despite the blistering heat I found when I woke up, I threw on a dress and my favorite brown flats that have served me so well walking around Chicago. Well, apparently walking 9,000 miles of gardens on gravel, dirt and stone paths that are hundreds of years old isn't the same as strutting the mean streets of Chicago. After my tour of the gardens, add in a little exploration of the town of Versailles (which I actually loved, far more so than that overpriced tourist trap that calls sprays of water from jets a "musical fountain show") and an impromptu visit — after, you know, getting lost for half an hour in Les Halles, to the modern art museum at the Centre Pompidou. Yeah. After about nine hours of straight walking, I was done. F-i-n-i, DONE. Unable to walk, arms shaking from hunger. Just a mess. And, after a seriously subpar salad, too much day drinking in the hot sun and several failed attempts at finding a Magnum to snack on, I wanted sushi. So I ordered some. To my hotel. Which was quite possibly the scariest thing I've done since my plane landed. The restaurant's website itself had translation available, but no such luck on the ordering page — and was I going to make a phone call to place my order? Um, no. It's harder for the Internet to tell how shabby my French skills are. It took me about half an hour to figure my life out and get an order placed…and about half that for it to get here. A beautiful black man on a moped zipped up outside and brought it to my door; I gave him a Euro for his expedience, and he told me I was beautiful. (Not that I want them to, but damn, why don't delivery guys do that in Chicago?) Now that's service.

So I watched CNN and ate like it was my job. Then I passed out.

And, well. Today, I have a new lease on life! It's not even 8 a.m. and I am raring to go! Which is good, because I have a four-hour bike tour ahead of me. After an infuriating, two-hour-long ordeal that ended as it began: in me being unable to rent a bike on my own from the kiosks all over the city — damn my SmartCard-less, American plastic! — I buckled and, in my blinding rage, booked a guided tour for this morning. Not with Fat Tire, the bike groups that are only a minor step up in coolness from Segway tours of the Plaza in Kansas City, but with a smaller company whose tour meets up at Notre Dame.

Un croissant et un café express, stat!

* Just making sure you're paying attention.